In Beyond Ideology, Ninian Smart faces up to the reality that in the world of humans there exist different Beyonds, or at the very least there are different maps of the world hereafter. From this it becomes clear that the problem of the plurality of religions cannot be left unaddressed. Smart’s consideration of the plurality of religions is completed in a much broader perspective than is usual. The question that he considers is not proving any religion right or wrong; his focus is on which worldview could be an actual possibility for modern humanity living in a world that will soon resemble a global city. Smart approaches the problem of the plurality of religion by categorising religions as worldviews. He then extends this view to the so-called secular worldviews, or ideologies, such as Marxism, nationalism, Maoism and social democracy. Such ideologies can fulfil this role because they are composed of symbolic acts that foster belief systems and sacramental actions. Smart believes that the ultimacy of religion lies in a discovery of identity, and that these ideologies, otherwise considered secular worldviews, are inadequate as a solid foundation to defend the fundamental rights of human beings. This publication is an attempt to bring certain insights drawn from the history of religions to bear on the task of framing a worldview that synthesizes important ingredients both from East and West and from individual experience and secular politics.
Beyond Ideology: Religion and the Future of Western Civilization
In a way, what Professor Ninian Smart presents in his Gifford Lecture series, Beyond Ideology, and reflects on are the many varieties of religious and symbolic identity. He labels the ideology herein as ‘transcendental pluralism’: transcendental because the sorrows and happinesses of humans, the quest for identity in the individual and in the group, are illuminated by what lies Beyond, whether looked at from the angle of the Christian tradition or from the Eastern and Buddhist traditions.